Kate Murray, Staff Reporter

While ransacking the library in a desperate attempt to acquire enough books to last me the weeks it would be closed I came across this book.   I seriously considered not picking it up, as I was already weighed down with several pounds of novels, but to tell the truth, something about it spoke to me.  And by “spoke to me” I mean that the title font positively screamed “steampunk” at the top of its nonexistent lungs.

Stormdancer follows a 16 year old girl named Yukiko in her travels throughout Shima, an alternate version of Japan where complicated machines and simplistic Iron Man suits are powered by the blood lotus plant.  Yukiko’s father, a master hunter, has been ordered to capture an arashitora by Yoritomo, the corrupt Shogun.  An arashitora (lit: storm tiger) is essentially the Japanese version of a griffin, and had been thought to be extinct for years on end.

Jay Kristoff, the author of the book, describes it as a “pure crossover” of fantasy and steampunk, although I don’t particularly agree.  More than anything else I view it as a dystopia which just so happens to include steampunk and fantasy elements.   Both fantasy and steampunk, which is technically a subdivision of fantasy, tend to focus more on the adventure than the message, and Stormdancer definitely does not ignore its message, stressing that the military-industrial complex is in no way a good idea, and that we need to take care of our environment.

The beginning of the book was, to me at least, majorly confusing.  The family tree isn’t very clear, and I spent much of the first hundred pages or so scratching my head and mumbling to myself in confusion.   If you were to stand outside my bedroom door for this period you would often have heard me wondering aloud such things as “Who is Yukiko?  When did they travel here?  Wait is Yukiko 16, or did they just refer to her as ‘old woman’?  Since when is Masaru Yukiko’s grandfather?  Wait, he’s her dad now?”

Despite these initial problems I had with it, Stormdancer ended up being a very pleasant read, with vivid imagery, a three dimensional world and characters, and plot twists I honestly didn’t see coming.  I very nearly put the book down when I thought I could predict a love triangle and cliched plot twist in the near future, and was quite pleasantly surprised to be wrong.  In fact the only reason love is featured at all is to add depth to the eventual betrayal by a person whose name I won’t reveal.  Some people would have enjoyed more romance, certainly, but that was not the point of the book, and if you are looking for a YA dystopia teeming with romantic drama I would steer you away from this book.  If you are looking for a story with flowing prose and a detailed world, however, I recommend it enthusiastically.